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Background

Alcohol consumption contributes significantly to the global burden of disease. In England, around 9 million people consume levels of alcohol posing a danger to their health, with alcohol misuse costing the NHS over £3 billion a year. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with greater incidence of injuries and mortality1, while the net effect of low to moderate consumption remains unclear2.

Drinking patterns vary across socio-economic backgrounds: people of lower socio-economic status (SES) are more likely to binge drink but those of higher SES tend to consume excessive amounts of alcohol more often3. Whether these differences in drinking patterns translate into differences in adverse outcomes remains uncertain.  Alcohol consumption may also co-exist with lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, which are associated with SES and contribute to adverse health outcomes.

The project will investigate the behavioural and socioeconomic aspects of alcohol consumption and its effects, using the UK Biobank, a data source for 500,000 UK residents recruited aged 40-69 years. The UK Biobank contains data on alcohol consumption, socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics, biomarkers and personal and family disease history (www.ukbiobank.ac.uk). Linkages to death and cancer registries and hospital data provide long-term morbidity, mortality and healthcare data.

  1. Thun MJ et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among middle-aged and elderly U.S. adults. N. Engl. J. Med. 1997;337(24):1705.
  2. Knott CS et al. All cause mortality and the case for age specific alcohol consumption guidelines BMJ. 2015;350:h384.
  3. Fone DL et al. Socioeconomic patterning of excess alcohol consumption and binge drinking. BMJ open. 2013;3(4).

Research Experience, Research Methods and Training

The project will investigate:

  1. Socio-economic and lifestyle factors across alcohol consumption patterns;
  2. Effects of patterns of alcohol consumption on health outcomes (mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease; hospital admissions) and healthcare costs;
  3. Modifications of alcohol effects by socio-economic/lifestyle factors.

The project will allow the student to work in a multi-disciplinary environment and to develop economics, statistical and epidemiological skills and work with large and complex datasets in the context of population health.

Field Work, Secondments, Industry Placements and Training

Training will be offered in advanced statistical and epidemiological methods, software, and working with complex datasets. The student will be encouraged to attend seminars, regularly present their work and interact with other researchers. Further training opportunities will be considered.

Supervision

An additional supervisor (to be confirmed) will be appointed prior to the commencement of study for any applicant accepted to this project.

Prospective Candidate

The project would suit an applicant with a background in a quantitative discipline, previous programming experience and interest in health research.

Supervisors

Projects